Tennis without Andy Murray is not looking so bleak for Britain thanks to the remarkable Australian Open run of Kyle Edmund.
When Murray was forced to pull out of the tournament with an ongoing hip problem, the end of the Scot’s career looked to be accelerating much faster than had been expected.
But, less than three weeks on, Murray appears to be making good progress in his recovery from surgery and Britain has a new tennis hero.
Edmund’s talent has not been a secret but even his biggest admirers probably did not expect him to emerge as a potential grand slam challenger just yet.
As 23, the Yorkshireman appears the natural successor to Murray whenever he does decide to hang up his racket and, if Edmund continues to progress at his current rate, then exciting times could lie ahead.
But, as with Murray, one exceptional player does not a make a strong tennis nation, and a glimpse behind Edmund reveals a mixed picture. As ever, the issue is one of depth.
Should Edmund decided he is not fit enough to play in the Davis Cup next week, Britain will find themselves taking on Spain with two players outside the top 100 in Cameron Norrie and Liam Broady.
They have both made encouraging progress over the past 12 months but are short of top-level experience while 19-year-old Jay Clarke also looks poised to make an impact in the senior game in the not-too-distant future.
Below that the bright young hopes are 17-year-old Aidan McHugh – a junior semi-finalist in Melbourne – and 16-year-olds George Loffhagen and Jack Draper.
In the women’s game, Naomi Broady and Katie Boulter both sit between 100 and 200, with Laura Robson, Katy Dunne, Gabi Taylor and Katie Swan below them.
The Lawn Tennis Association will shortly be unveiling its new Performance Pathway in an attempt to create more strength in depth at the top level.
The pathway is build around a network of regional and national performance centres providing subsidised training to the best young talent. It is the brainchild of performance director Simon Timson and has been overseen by new chief executive Scott Lloyd.
Leon Smith, the Davis Cup captain and head of men’s tennis, believes the much-criticised governing body is poised to deliver after previous chief executive Michael Downey failed to provide a coherent high performance programme.
Smith said: “We still need some more players, that’s obvious. That’s why we’ve had Simon Timson. That’s why Scott Lloyd’s here now. That’s why there’s a new performance strategy. That’s why there needs to be, no matter what, an extended run at the new strategy.
“We say it time and time again. It’s so important that it sticks. It’s so important that there’s not another change. It has to stick for 10 years. It has to. And things like national academies are absolutely the right thing.
“I think the strategy is really well thought through. It’s robust, it’s ambitious. Now the question is getting the people in place who will do the actual coaching.”
The forgotten member of Britain’s small band of elite players is Dan Evans, who will be free to resume his career in April after serving a 12-month ban following a positive doping test for cocaine.
Smith checks up on Evans on WhatsApp and is ready to help him try to get back to the top-50 position he occupied last season.
“I care about Dan a lot, I’m very open with that,” said Smith. “I hope he can come back. I don’t know if he will or not because that’s going to be down to him. He’s talking like he wants to get back. He is a person that always needs help and I hope he’s really open to it because I want to help him.”